Laurent Courtois started the season opener for Chivas USA, and from there played in exactly half of the team's league matches in 2012. But in a season when so many players struggled, Courtois' season with the Goats seemed strangely muted except for a few key moments. Still, the 34-year old dug in and provided those moments to give the team a boost. It's just a shame he couldn't have done it more often, or had more help from his teammates.
Let's go over the highlights. Courtois had three assists on the season and one goal. He assisted on Juan Agudelo's goal in the U.S. Open Cup match against the Carolina RailHawks, on a nice diagonal cross that Agudelo finished with a diving header. Courtois also had the assist on the dramatic injury-time winner in the next USOC game, against the Charlotte Eagles, taking a free kick from about 35 yards out that Jose Correa headed in for the Goats' advancement to the semifinal round.
In league play, Courtois saved his best for last, scoring his only goal of the season in the season finale against FC Dallas. Coming on in the 80th minute, he scored from the edge of the box in the 90th minute, then assisted on Juan Agudelo's goal in the 94th minute to give Chivas a dramatic 2-2 draw. It probably sounds like sniping, but if only that kind of comeback and resilience had been part of Chivas' makeup all season.
Here are Courtois' statistics on the year:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||17||9||773||1||1||21||6||0||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||3||2||198||0||2||4||2||0||0|
So what do we make of Courtois' year? He played decently as a winger and two-way outside midfielder. He provided a few timely goals on the season. He mostly played as a sub, and only started one league game after July 7th. I got the impression that he got pushed out by the formations and other concerns more often than not. With Nick LaBrocca, Oswaldo Minda, and Ben Zemanski (not to mention Alejandro Moreno) getting the lion's share of the minutes in central midfield, with Robin Fraser frequently using a 4-3-3 formation, and with Ryan Smith playing most of the minutes as a proper winger, Courtois looked like the odd man out. Of course, it could be argued that Fraser's proclivity to use a single true winger in an unbalanced formation hurt the team's attack, and if Smith and Courtois had seen more time together, maybe there would have been more scoring chances.
As for next season, I'd guess he's not coming back. His age, combined with his salary last season ($135,000 base salary, $267,166.67 guaranteed compensation) means he's probably not one to start yet another rebuild with. And yet, if his contract is up and if he can be signed to a pay cut, and if the roster turnover is too stark, having him around for another season may be useful for the stability of the team. As a back-up next year, Courtois could really help the team. As a consistent starter? Probably not. Still, we'll have to see how the roster moves shake out for next season.
Scoring Threat: C+
It's not, as they say, how you start but rather how you finish. As the lone Chivas sub in the final ten minutes of the season, Courtois triggered an equalizer with his first goal of the season and his first league assist in his Chivas career. Courtois' heroics denied FC Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman a clean sheet victory in what may very well be the last season of a career that began in 1997.
While Courtois' 2011 and 2012 statistics look remarkably similar, they in fact were quite different. In 2011, Courtois may have only started three games, but was a consistent substitute. After being signed on August 4th, Courtois played in all but one game, never playing less than 24 minutes.
Despite appearances in the first five games and last four games in 2012, meanwhile, Courtois only made five appearances between May and October.
Finally, despite nearly doubling his number of shots--from 12 to 21--Courtois only had six shots on goal, whereas he had four shots on goal in 2011.
Playmaker (Passing/Creativity): B
A left-footed, versatile midfielder Courtois helped to maintain balance on a Chivas side that drifted heavily to the right. Courtois could reliably be counted on to whip 3-4 crosses per game usually one of which being successful. The Frenchman was less proficient in one-on-one situations--only succeeding in beating his man off the dribble 1-out-of-3 attempts.
Courtois has described himself as an "attacking" player and his defensive metrics bear this out. This is not an attempt to slag the player--every player has a role to play and a piece to contribute. He attempted slightly less than a tackle per game usually succeeding in stripping his opponent of the ball 2:1.
- Matthew Hoffman
I'm a big fan of this guy, both on and off the field. I think he brings a lot of valuable experience. While it may not be in MLS, he's a hard worker and very adaptable, traits that are always good to have in a newcomer to the league. He didn't get as many minutes as one would have hoped for, but I think he brought an organized and technical approach to this team that was really needed. The only knock on him is his age, which may have been the reason he got minimal minutes. I would keep him around - he still has game in him and can be a great locker room presence.
- Rachna Kapur